zig-zags and traffic flips

July 24th, 2015

Zig-zags during construction

Anyone who has driven with any regularity through one of our vivaNext construction zones will be familiar by now with the ongoing changes we periodically make to lane configurations, and the occasionally zig-zag layout of the temporary lanes. Here’s an explanation for those temporary lanes, and why they’re a necessary part of construction.

There’s no doubt that the fastest and easiest way to widen a road and build our BRT network would be to close the roads and divert all the traffic. Construction would be done soon and could even cost less. But Highway 7, Yonge Street and Davis Drive are among the busiest roads in York Region (which is why we’re building our first rapidways there). Any reduction to the number of lanes, even for a block, or for a short time, may result in traffic congestion and travel times, divert traffic into local neighbourhoods and hurt local businesses. Closures are only done for specific tasks, and only when there are no other reasonable options.

Widening the road and building the new rapidways can only be done when traffic is moved away. Even construction outside the roadway at the stations and boulevards requires extra space for safety and efficiency. Our project is complicated because we are building in the middle of live traffic lanes, so extra precautions are necessary.

The compromise is construction staging, meaning construction that’s done in individual steps or stages. Specific tasks requiring the same general work zone are carried out in one place at one time, before moving on to another area. To free up space, traffic is continually shifted, with temporary lanes moved around to accommodate active construction zones as our work progresses.

Creating a construction schedule and staging plan is a complex process, balancing community and project priorities. There are lots of considerations: maintaining traffic within the existing corridors rather than diverting traffic into adjacent neighbourhoods; minimizing disruption to drivers, local businesses and residents; working fast to finish on schedule so Viva rapidway service can begin.

Construction staging plans are developed block by block to include the timing and location of key construction activities, such as utility relocations; expansion or upgrading of critical infrastructure like watermains and sewers; road widening; building our rapidway stations; and constructing new features such as bike lanes and streetscaping elements. Preserving access to intersections, driveways and other important destinations is done to minimize impacts on residents and businesses. We also need to plan for specific construction requirements such as access for oversized construction equipment, or creating extra space around a short-term activity.

In general, we’ll do a set of tasks on one side of the road before the lanes are shifted (or “flipped”) for work to be done on the other side. And before traffic is shifted, we make sure the community and drivers are given plenty of advance notice so they know when travel lanes are going to be moved.

Ultimately, building a major construction project in the middle of a busy thoroughfare requires us all to share the road for a period of time. By staging our construction, we can ensure the safety and convenience of the community and drivers while keeping our crews safe so they can get the job done.

when transit is the star, good things happen

July 17th, 2015

more riders transit legacy

One of the most valuable legacies of the Pan Am and Parapan Am Games is how the Games are relying on transit. In fact, the first vivaNext rapidway on Highway 7 East in Markham and Richmond Hill is actively being used during the Pan Am Games.

It turns out there’s more to the story.

In an article in this morning’s Globe and Mail, urban transportation reporter Oliver Moore points out that the experience of all these Pan Am transit riders is painting a picture of how great having effective efficient mass transit can be when transit systems are in place, and when transit is actively supported and promoted.

For example:
• The transit agencies across the GTHA are working together more
• People are changing their habits as drivers become riders
• Buses on HOV lanes maintain schedules or are often ahead of schedule

“For riders, it is a glimpse of how fast and reliable surface transportation can be – offering a real alternative – if it does not have to compete with other traffic,” notes Moore.

Now’s that’s a legacy we @vivaNext can get excited about!

Click to read the article.

If you’d like to subscribe to email updates about the progress of the vivaNext project, click on this subscriber link, or go to our homepage at vivaNext.com and scroll down to “subscribe”.

trees do make you healthier!

July 15th, 2015

Trees July16

As transit riders, most of you already know that taking transit can make you healthier. But now there’s a study reported by the Toronto Star that tells us that having trees on your street can not only make you healthier –but make you feel healthier.

As we continue to build new segments of rapid transit, we at vivaNext feel strongly that tree-lined streets help to make the new spaces more enjoyable to live and work in. They certainly create a welcoming, inviting environment that we can all feel proud of.

Click to read this fascinating article.

If you’d like to subscribe to email updates about the progress of the vivaNext project, click on this subscriber link, or go to our homepage at vivaNext.com and scroll down to “subscribe”.

moving the masses: Pan Am and Parapan Am Games rely on mass transit to make it all happen

July 10th, 2015

Get ready, the Pan Am and Parapan Am Games are coming to the Greater Toronto Area!

Get ready, the Pan Am and Parapan Am Games have arrived! This is the world’s third-largest international multi-sport games. That means 250,000 visitors, and over 7,000 athletes converging on the GTA this July and August.

When you want to move the masses, you need mass transit.

Imagine 1.4 million spectators [that’s how many tickets there are for the Pan Am Games] potentially trying to make their way to over 300 events all over the GTA from July 10 to 26. Or 50,000 people all going downtown on a single night to attend the Opening Ceremonies at Rogers Centre on July 10.

Without transit, getting people to mega-events like this would be traffic chaos. The Toronto Pan Am/Parapan Am Games is relying on mass transit infrastructure to make it all happen. Organizers have adopted what they call a “transit-first approach” – doing all that they can to get people to take transit during the Games.

  • Tickets to the Pan Am and Parapan Am Games include free transit with local services such as GO Transit, Toronto Transit Commission [TTC], YRT/Viva  and many more.  Just show your Games ticket and ride for free.
  • Extra TTC and GO train service will run during the Games and subway service will start at 6am on Sundays instead of the usual 9am.
  • Several games venues won’t have parking. [Accessible parking is allowed, but should be pre-booked.]
  • Apps and online tools can help people optimize their transit and driving routes.
    • Triplinx is Metrolinx’s interactive transit trip planning tool, which launched in May, and provides step-by-step, real-time directions for transit riders.
    • 2015 Games Trip Planner provides real-time driving and transit routes during the Games.
    • The ‘Call One’ Call Centre, run by York Region Transit, will allow Games spectators to book specialized transit, coordinating service between GO Transit and all nine specialized transit service providers in the Games area, including York Region Transit Mobility Plus.

Our first rapidway on Highway 7 East in Markham and Richmond Hill is ready for the Pan Am Games. While it wasn’t planned specifically for this event, the rapidway will make travelling to events at Markham Pan Am/Parapan Am Centre near Kennedy Road and Enterprise Boulevard much easier.

Major international events like this will often spur the creation of transit infrastructure. The Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games led to the creation of the Canada Line, a light rail train in Vancouver that connected the city to the airport.

Vancouver Olympics organizers encouraged spectators and commuters to turn to transit during the Games, just as Pan Am/Parapan Am Games planners are doing now.

Transit service in Vancouver experienced record ridership during the Olympics, up 31 percent with an average daily ridership near 1.6 million.

There was also an amazing, surprising after-effect. Once people got used to riding transit, they kept riding, even when the Olympics were over.

Ridership increased by nearly eight percent that year, excluding the Olympics numbers, which was partly due to the new Canada Line, and partly due to people keeping up their Olympic transit habit.

Now that’s a legacy for the future.

For mass events, transit just makes sense. When everyone has so many places they need to be all at once, it’s so much easier to be car-free, sit back and enjoy the ride.

 

make some #connections this summer

June 30th, 2015

Happy Canada Day!

Happy Canada Day!

It’s that time of year again, as the temperature rises and schools close, we start making plans for the summer. No matter whether you’re planning to take a big vacation or find fun and excitement in York Region, know that Viva is there to make your trips for work, shopping or playing a fast and enjoyable experience.

But on a day like today, we’re concentrating on the fun. Join us at events across York Region this summer in your community.  This July 1, our vivaNext team will be out celebrating Canada Day at the Kanata Summer Festival in Newmarket.

itching for ways to win?

Pick up a scratch ‘n’ win card from our vivaNext team at your next community event. We’ll be handing out vivaNext scratch cards for a chance to win one of 12 PRESTO cards, or one of three iPad Air 2 tablets. Both are perfect for getting you around town or staying connected to the people and places we love most. A PRESTO card is the most convenient way to get around town, connecting YRT/Viva, GO buses and trains, and the TTC with one card! And the iPad Air 2 is equally convenient for business or pleasure with a wide selection of apps to choose from [like this one, perhaps?]. For complete details, visit our website, or go straight to the rules and regulations.

up for a challenge?

For those who enjoy games check out our summer on-line game – another PRESTO card is up for grabs. The highest score wins, so play early and often to better your score. Play the #Connections Summer Game here.

Davis Drive walking tours in Newmarket

Looking for something to do this summer? Show your support for Davis Drive businesses with a short, guided walking tour of the new rapidways under construction. See the progress in action! Best of all, you’ll receive a $10 voucher to use at a participating Davis Drive restaurant on the day of your tour. Space is limited, so please register for a date and time convenient to you.

There is a lot happening around town and we hope to see you out and about this summer. In the meantime, Happy Canada Day everyone!

 

bus rapid transit system is a global phenomenon, up nearly 400% in over 10 years

June 29th, 2015

BRT system is a global phenomenon

At vivaNext, we’re working hard to build a Bus Rapid Transit [BRT] system. And we’re not alone! Our vision of fast, reliable and convenient BRT service is shared by many cities and regions, all over the world.

Bus Rapid Transit is a global phenomenon that has nearly quadrupled over the last 10 years, growing 383% worldwide from 2004 to 2014, according to data compiled by the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy.

 

buses! buses!

Former mayor of Bogotá, Colombia, Enrique Peñalosa, said it best with his rally cry: “Buses! Buses! Buses! Buses!” That was his response to a suggestion that some municipalities might benefit from a subway.

Indeed, for many cities and regions, BRT simply makes sense. A BRT system can be built at a fraction of the cost and time of a rail system – in the span of a few years instead of a decade or more – and still provide service that can be just as reliable, fast and frequent as a train.

More cities and regions are turning to BRT as their transportation solution, with 1,849 kilometres of new lines added globally in the last decade. In York Region, our contribution was the six- kilometre stretch of rapidway on Highway 7 East! And that’s just the beginning.

 

32 million global BRT riders every day

Around the world, 32 million people ride BRT every day, according to the global database BRTData.org.  That’s 5,087 kilometres of BRT lines in 193 cities.

The undisputed global leader of the movement is Latin America with nearly 20 million passengers, followed by Asia with 8.7 million. Brazil is the birthplace of BRT, and the country with the largest network of systems; nearly 12 million passengers a day in 34 cities!

Bus Rapid Transit grew the most in China with construction of 552 new kilometres over the last decade, followed by Brazil with 345 kilometres, and Mexico with 234 kilometres, according to the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy.

Closer to home in North America, BRT is a small but growing phenomenon with one million passengers in 27 cities. The United States was fourth worldwide in terms of growth, with 104 kilometres of new lanes built in the last 10 years.

 

9.6 million annual riders on Highway 7 East rapidway

Here in York Region, we’re working hard to bring the vivaNext vision to life. Our current plan will include 34 kilometres of rapidway once construction is complete, connecting the communities of Markham, Vaughan, Richmond Hill and Newmarket. That includes the six kilometres already running in Markham. We’re also forging connections with the Spadina Subway Extension, and advancing plans for the Yonge North Subway Extension. In 2014, our Highway 7 East rapidway in Markham had 9.6 million riders, so we’re well on our way.

We’re building rapidways but the true end product is something much greater – mobility. Mobility makes everything possible. Because BRT runs in designated lanes it’s not subject to the whims of traffic. When our rapidways are complete, people will know they can rely on Viva service to get where they need to go – to work, to school, and to life.  As our communities grow and roads get more congested, our rapidway system will be ready to meet the growing demands of our region – part of a global movement moving people forward into the future

 

those carefree summer days are here!

June 25th, 2015

those carefree summer days are here

School’s wrapping up and summer’s here! Are you excited? We are. Summer is the time of year when vivaNext gets a lot done. This summer, work on our Davis Drive rapidway in Newmarket is entering the home stretch, and we’re excited to see it taking shape. We’re also widening roads and paving in Vaughan on Highway 7 West, and last but not least we are putting the final touches on our Highway 7 rapidway in Markham in preparation for the Pan Am Games.

Summer is a great time for you to get things done too – important things like swimming, cycling, camping and barbecues.

Warm weather and no school mean carefree days, which is why it’s more important than ever to drive carefully. Children and teens will be running around having the time of their lives. Sometimes they run into the streets without looking, skateboard on busy streets, or do other things you wouldn’t expect. It’s motorists’ job to be extra vigilant, helping our kids stay safe.

In our busy lives, driving sometimes feels like a race from one place to the next. Is it really worth the rush? Sidestepping rules of the road by talking on a cell phone or rolling through a stop sign can be tempting. But, take your time. Slow down and enjoy the summer. Keep your attention on the road and watch for construction detours, speed signs and children.

And if you find driving is becoming a little tedious, you can try Viva, which is running throughout York Region. As you know, six kilometres of bus rapid transit are already running in Markham from Bayview to Warden, providing travel times that are as much as 35% faster, so experience it firsthand.  This route will be a fast, convenient alternative to driving your car throughout the Pan Am Games this summer.

However you choose to get around, we hope you make the most out of your summer – drive with care and be safe!

 

realizing the vision of leafy, tree-lined streets

June 19th, 2015

realizing the vision of leafy, tree-lined streets

Planter boxes and trees are coming to Highway 7 in Vaughan! Along with the paving [have you heard about all the paving?] activity that’s been happening along the rapidway construction, you’ll soon be seeing crews building planter boxes between Jane Street and the CN Bridge.

The arrival of the planters is a big deal – to us and to the neighbourhood – because these structures will be housing trees and plants.

One of the most desirable qualities of a livable neighbourhood is the presence of trees. And at vivaNext, we have very deliberately designed the rapidways with this vision of a tree-lined, livable neighbourhood in mind. Part of our goal with the new boulevards is to bring to life the “complete street” concept – the guiding philosophy for our streetscape design.

As development continues and the population in York Region grows, it means that there will be more people walking and riding along the rapidway routes. So we’ve made sure that our boulevard design is going to be visually appealing as well as functional. And the trees and plants we’ve planted will grow to shade the area for everyone to enjoy.

If you want to see how green the Vaughan area of the rapidway will eventually become, take a look at Highway 7 East. The Markham section of the vivaNext rapidway is bursting with growing, thriving trees and greenery, thanks in part to all the sunshine and large amount of rain we’ve had.

However, most of you will probably notice that Mother Nature is getting quite a bit of help along the way. Landscaping crews are currently out there every day, installing planter boxes, planting flowers, bushes, and grasses, topping up topsoil and distributing mulch, planting new trees and replacing the few that didn’t survive the winter.

As you go for a stroll, ride your bike, drive, or take a bus ride along the rapidway[!], be sure to look around you and take in the newly tree-lined greenery-filled boulevard on Highway 7 East.

If you’d like to subscribe to email updates about the progress of the vivaNext project, click on this subscriber link, or go to our homepage at vivaNext.com and scroll down to “subscribe.”

 

working hand-in-hand

June 17th, 2015

working hand-in-hand

Sometimes the best way to get through big, complex tasks is to split the workload – divide and conquer. This is especially true with York Region’s transit network, so we work alongside the Transportation Services Department.

With strategic plans in place, the Transportation Services Department plans the overall transportation network, including roads, transit and cycling. They create a Transportation Master Plan, which takes into account many factors, including ideas from residents, population growth and other statistics, provincial mandates like Places to Grow, and environmental protection measures like the Greenbelt and Oak Ridges Moraine. They also build and maintain roads, and through YRT/Viva, operate conventional YRT transit, Mobility Plus and Viva rapid transit.

At vivaNext [York Region Rapid Transit Corporation], we put the rapid transit part of the Transportation Master Plan in place. We work with all levels of government to acquire funding for each new project, whether it’s Bus Rapid Transit rapidways, subways, or transit facilities. We design and build these projects – including details like station locations and designs, sidewalks and lighting.

As the project manager, we set timelines and manage construction contracts. The rapidways are major infrastructure projects requiring careful scheduling and seamless handovers when each project goes into service. At this end point, the operations are handed over to YRT/Viva, and the maintenance is done by either York Region or the local municipality, depending on who owns the road.

At vivaNext we have some projects in place already, more scheduled for the next four years, and a few projects yet to be funded. Along with York Region’s growing population, there’s a growing need for transit. So there’s a lot to do, and we’re working hand-in-hand to get everything done.

If you’re looking for a few videos, you can get a glimpse of the transformation of York Region, see what York Region’s Transportation Services does, or just catch a little excitement.

 

private time on public transit

June 12th, 2015

private time on public transit

The Toronto Star recently ran a piece on how the TTC has become an extension of “home” for its users. While he remarked that some people do things not normally considered polite for public spaces, Urban Affairs writer Christopher Hume also noted that even with less privacy, riders have more freedom.

“Even in a moving subway,” he wrote, “it’s easier to put on lipstick than it is driving on Highway 401. It’s also easier to eat, drink, read and tend to one’s appearance.”

People who use transit regularly use the time in a variety of ways that are either impossible or risky when driving a car. They read books, work on laptops, watch TV, talk to other riders, snooze – and yes, put on makeup or simply stare into space at the end of a busy day.

They don’t worry about being cut off in traffic or being stuck behind a sander during a snowstorm. Parking and finding a gas station are also non-issues, and riders save thousands of dollars a year in car depreciation, gas and insurance. And let’s not forget that they also get tax credits for transit passes like the Viva Monthly Pass.

If you trade your car keys for a transit seat, you might just find yourself with time on your hands!